(CNN)A six-month stay on the International Space Station can be a pain in the back for astronauts. While they may gain up to 2 inches in height temporarily, that effect is accompanied by a weakening of the muscles supporting the spine, according to a new study.
Chang and the other researchers brainstormed with a virtual reality team about different exercise programs that would enable astronauts to invite friends, family or even Twitter followers to join them in a virtual workout, making the daily repetition of their workouts more fun and competitive.
One of Chang’s teammates has felt this pain personally. Dr. Scott Parazynski
is the only astronaut to summit Mount Everest. He experienced a herniated disc after returning from the ISS to Earth. Less than a year later, when he attempted to climb Everest the first time, he had to be airlifted off. After a rehabilitation process, he eventually made the summit. Now, he speaks to current astronauts about the ways they can contribute to studies about their health in microgravity.
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Keeping the astronauts healthy and fit is the least they can do, Chang said.
“When a crew comes back, they say on one side of the space station, they see this beautiful blue planet,” he said. “Everything they hold dear to them is on this fragile little planet. And they look out the other window and just see infinity stretching off into the blackness, and they come back with a different sense of themselves and their place in the universe.
“All of them are committed to furthering space knowledge and making incremental steps forward in any way they can for the next crew.”
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